All of us here at ProAudioLand are always striving to bring our guests the best possible products and information available in order to make sure they can rock out with the best of them. Whether it’s through our several guides on tips and techniques or our numerous contests, sales and giveaways, we believe that in order to find that ultimate potential – along with that ultimate tone – being at the forefront of the business is key. As far as our products are concerned, we are constantly expanding our inventory by making sure we carry the latest and greatest gear around at the lowest prices guaranteed. While it’s honestly close to impossible for any one store to carry absolutely everything out there, we are definitely constantly making sure we have what you need. And with that said, we’ve recently added a whole slew of new instruments and accessories that has admittedly gotten us excited here in the office; keyboards and MIDI equipment! That’s right, Korg, M-Audio and even Samsung are now part of the ProAudioLand family – and we couldn’t be happier! Whether you’re a weekend DJ producing his or her own hits or an indie rock musician in the need of a little key action, a keyboard or synthesizer might be just what you needed in order to take your sound to the next level. If you haven’t checked them out, you can – and should – do so here.
Well, I’ll be the first to admit that throwing out a little attention towards our new product page isn’t exactly the best segue into today’s topic but hey, doesn’t mean you still shouldn’t check it out! Alright, today we will be talking about recording wind instruments. The good news for all of you home studio producers out there – it’s not nearly as complicated a procedure as recording a drum kit, or even a guitar for that matter. The bad news – there are a few key things that you have to keep in mind.
Things to Think About
The most common wind instruments (for the sake of keeping this concise, by “wind instruments” I’m including brass, woodwind or what have you – anything that you gotta blow) used in your typical home studio recording would be trumpets, trombones and saxophones and you can record them each pretty much the same way with the saxophone being the slight odd man out, but more on that in a bit. I’m sure all of us can agree that wind instruments are louder than that of most any other non-amplified instrument out there. As long as you always keep that in mind, the rest should be pretty easy and a standard fare as far as recording goes. Also, like any other type of acoustic recording, make sure the player doesn’t move around – too much and it will drastically alter the sound of the instrument.
When it comes to trumpets and trombones, you can think of the sound being emitted similar in shape to that of the polar pattern of a mic where most of the sound is coming from the bell of the instrument. Not only that, it’s becomes increasingly directional the louder it’s played. This is a very important idea to wrap your head around because this essentially means that the sound of the instrument is very different depending on what side you’re listening from – especially as far as the higher frequencies are concerned. Anyways, if you stand behind a trumpet you'll hear very little direct sound and no high frequency components at all. If you move to the side you'll pick up the lowest frequency components, but it’s only directly in front that you'll hear the higher frequencies and harmonics. With that said, if you want a very sharp and crisp type of sound, you’re going to want to record the instrument with the mic directly facing the bell. Be aware that because wind instruments are made to be loud, you’re probably going to have to deal with a lot of room reflections from all the sound bouncing around. You can try to negate this by placing some dampers in between the walls and the player or even trying to change rooms if possible.
The saxophone is a little different from the trumpet and trombone as it doesn’t just create sound from the bell end but from the entire body as well. This means that you have more options as far as mic placement goes but if you’re looking for that typical sax sound that everyone pretty much expects, you’re going to have to place the mic’s diaphragm facing the upturned bell of the sax. It won’t capture the natural sound of the sax but this creates a very specific bright, raspy sound which is probably the one you’re looking for and everyone recognizes.
Make sure the diaphragm faces the bell
Being the loud instruments that they are, it’s not going to be that easy listening to the changes of sound through mic placement – even if you have headphones. Too much sound leaks through. Essentially, you’re going to have to do a few test recordings with different mic positions to get what you want. A bit of a hassle, yes, but well worth it once you find what you want.
As far as the actual microphone goes, the main thing you have to make sure is that you choose one that can best handle loud peaks without clipping or distorting. If you are looking for a typical pop type of sound, most producers tend to favor large diaphragm condenser microphones. The only thing is that if you take this route, make sure you have a pop screen in place and have your instruments about a foot or more away to avoid clipping. If clipping and distortion is still an issue, using a dynamic microphone is not a bad idea as you can still get some pretty outstanding sounds from them.
One last thing; pay attention to the performance of the player and the sound quality. Playing a wind instrument is not easy and they can and will leave you a bit drained – especially with the trombone. Not only that, spit eventually builds up which alters tone. Be aware that you’re going to have to let the player rest a bit more often than with a guitarist or singer and make sure they have time to clean their instrument.